The first that pops in my mind for Vienna is elegant! Contrary to several people’s belief that Vienna is boring and dull, I found it to be quite the opposite.
The Central European team at Context Travel helped me majorly in that regard. Context Travel is a company specializing in city tours/walks with local historians. Their USP is small group tours offering in depth information of the city or a particular part of it so that one can really delve into understanding both the history and local culture. One of the biggest benefits of taking a walk with them is feeling a little less overwhelmed than you are because Vienna is quite overwhelming!
Piroska Meyer-Sebastian of Context Travel showed me around the 1st District of Vienna which happens to be the most legendary areas of the charismatic city.
I was the only person for that morning’s tour so everything was done at my pace. Which also meant that I could ask a million questions, (sometimes even unrelated to history) take breaks longer than usual and linger around at one place for more time. For instance I totally bored Piroska about Viennese chocolates and visiting the city’s favorite cafes. She was so fun and it was a blessing to be with a local on my very first day.
What is the 1st District??
Coming back to the walk…. It started in the 1st District, which is the ancient part of Vienna made by the Romans. (Oh yes they were everywhere) The walk included many of the sights that a tourist would normally not know on their first visit but since Context offers deep meaningful tours, I visited several hidden areas. We started with the city’s oldest church- Ruprechtskirche. The ivy laden Gothic church is dedicated to the patron saint of Salzburg- St. Rupert. It was eerie inside but the outside was very pretty especially because of the weather.
The area around the church was compact and charming and just at the corner was one of the oldest synagogues from the 12th century where the first Jews of the city started living. The Jewish community in the city has had a tumultuous relationship but even now there are Jewish clubs, schools, museums and newspapers in Vienna.
The whole area around the Synagogue was protected and armed. There was small alleys leading to further smaller alleys where I chanced upon an English bookstore (more on that in the next post). We walked past the main cathedral of St. Stephen’s where there are many cafes and shops worth visiting. I mentally made a note of that.
After a long walk, Piroska and I visited a memorial of the Austrian Holocaust Victims right in the middle of the historic centre. It was amazing to see how the Austrians had preserved their history.
We walked around the quiet area of the 1st District crossing what must be regular sightings in Vienna- horse driven carriages!! I squealed in delight!! We also crossed the Austrian Parliament and Hofburg Palace where I was told a million things I don’t remember. But the most interesting suggestion I was given was to visit the Globe Museum! There is also a Museum of Peace.
What an interesting city!
I continued my visit to the quaint streets of Vienna and in that three hour walk fell in love with the history, food and chocolates. The city has so many layers…..
My favorite part of the walk included the grounds of the Hofburg Palace which I returned to the next day. It was as if I went back in the 60s. Disclaimer: My walk in Vienna was made possible thanks to Context Travel but the views here are completely my own.